Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Towards Socialism

For those of us who advocate the striving towards a just socialist society free of exploitation, oppression, hierarchy and domination and instead founded upon rational ethical principles such as equality, mutual aid, solidarity, cooperation, freedom and democracy, we certainly do not expect to see such a radical transformation occur overnight. Any rational person looking at existing society could not possibly believe that it is anything like ripe for substantive, foundational socialist change; that would be a ludicrous conclusion. These are for sure long-term goals, although anything can happen at anytime, most unexpectedly.

This being the case, the question arises: what to do? Noam Chomsky stresses that what should drive people working “for change are certain principles you’d like to see achieved,” such as the ones I have cited; people must advance these principles. Chomsky observes that many people refer to such tactics as “reformism,” and that this is more of a baseless “put-down” because “reforms can be quite revolutionary if they lead in a certain direction,” and they can certainly help better lay the foundation and create the material conditions for a more thorough transformation.

The question then arises as to what reforms should be advocated and implemented, what reforms would be likely to help work towards a more just socialist society. In my view some of the immediate tasks should be the reestablishment and reorganization of the unions that have been absolutely decimated from, conspicuously, the Reagan administration throughout every following administration (both Republican and Democratic). Historically unions act as centers furthering democracy, freedom, solidarity, welfare and so on. Noam Chomsky elaborates upon this point in his lecture “Class War: The Attack on Working People”:

“Effective democratizing forces has always been the labor movement, labor unions; history on that is completely clear. In countries that have a strong labor movement there is also a very strong tendency or a strong correlation with a real, live, functioning social contract that includes not only rights for working people, but for people who need help and protection: for the defenseless, for children, for women, for families, for people in need of assistance generally, for the general public in fact. And there’s also a culture that goes along with it: a culture of solidarity and sympathy and mutual aid and support.”

For these reasons it is surely of critical importance to reorganize the unions and to reinvigorate and empower the labor movement. The labor movement is a strong countervailing force for democracy promotion, social justice and the like and must become again a leading social force.

It would also seem practical to form a viable labor party that actually represents working class and regular, ordinary people – rather than being forced with simply two divergent factions of the single business party – seeing as the United States is one of the only, if not the only, “first-world” industrialized nations without such a labor party.

Taking into consideration the effects of corporate globalization – for example, the fact that a multinational corporation, such as a car manufacturing company, can, when labor demands become “too costly” for the company, simply, because it is cheaper, transfer manufacturing somewhere else, from the United States to Mexico or Indonesia, from Germany to Alabama, etcetera, where workers rights have either not been achieved or have been decimated – the reconstitution of the labor movement must truly be international, as they have always made a pretense of. This project can take as a guide the Industrial Workers’ of the World Union’s international unionization of Starbucks baristas where labor actions have taken place in various countries, following the fact that the company is international, so too must be the unionization of it.

Following the subject of internationalism, the Humanist Manifesto 2000, drafted by Paul Kurtz, presents some pragmatic international reforms. A Planetary Bill of Rights and Responsibilities is proposed. “It incorporates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but goes beyond it by offering some new provisions” and goes into detail describing these new provisions, such as economic security, protection from unnecessary injury, danger and death (the inadmissibility of capital punishment), protection from discrimination based upon race, ethnic origin, nationality, culture, caste, class, creed, gender, or sexual orientation, the necessity of the principles of equality (equality before the law, equality of consideration, satisfaction of basic needs, equality of opportunity) and so on.

Discussing “The Need For New Planetary Institutions” it is observed that “[t]o solve problems on the transnational level and to contribute to planetwide development, we need gradually but drastically to transform the United Nations…The most fundamental change would be to enhance the effectiveness of the UN by converting it from an assembly of sovereign states to an assembly of peoples as well.”

The Manifesto cites as some more reforms that “the world needs…to establish an effective World Parliament – and elections to it based on populations – which will represent the people, not their governments.”

The Security Council veto must be abolished due to its having the effect of allowing any permanent Security Council member, such as the United States (the most egregious abuser), to halt any action or policy it wishes, even over and against overwhelming international consensus. As the manifesto states “[t]he basic principle of world security is that no single state or alliance of states has the right to undermine the political and territorial integrity of other states by aggression; nor should any nation or group of nations be allowed to police the world or unilaterally bomb others without the concurrence of the Security Council.”

There must be developed “an effective World Court and an International Judiciary with sufficient power to enforce its rulings.” There needs to be “a planetary environmental monitoring agency on the transnational level” and “the development of global institutions should include some procedure for the regulation of multinational corporations and state monopolies.”

Outside of these broad, international reforms, tactics must vary, being contingent upon specific circumstances, geographic regions and so forth. In this sense local community centers, cooperatives and activist groups should be created in order to address local issues as well as partake in the broader, larger issues; such a reorganization should begin from the ground up.

Elaborating upon these themes Chomsky suggests that “in your local community you want to have sources of alternative action; people with parallel concerns, maybe differently focused, but, at the core, sort of similar values and similar interests in helping people learn how to defend themselves against external power, taking control of their lives, reaching out your hand to people in need, that’s a common array of concerns. You can learn about your values, you can figure out how to defend yourself and so on in conjunction with others.”

Working towards socialist change must be variegated and diverse, manifesting the specificities of the regions, organizations, cultures, issues and peoples working toward such change and such work should begin immediately, where it has not begun already.